“This boy will be famous. There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name”
J.K. Rowling is best known as the author who brought magic into people’s lives through the Harry Potter series. Her books have gone on to become a global phenomenon, even inspiring films and tourist attractions. Before she launched the series, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. She has triumphed over personal hardships and Forbes has recognized her as one of the world’s first billionaire authors.
Public relations and marketing for books can be more complicated than people expect. The story behind J.K Rowling’s marketing and branding is as magical as her books themselves.
Given her success with Harry Potter as well as her other works, there are some strategies that companies can implement to position themselves for long-term sustainable business growth.
Let us look at some strategies that J.K. Rowling consciously and subconsciously implemented to make her who she is.
1) Develop a strategic approach
Even before writing her books, Rowling had already developed a plan for how the characters and stories would develop. While she never reveals the book’s secrets, she already had an idea of what storyline the readers would get.
From a PR and marketing standpoint, it is essential to have a strategy because it helps companies be one step ahead and have a crisis management plan if one does arise. By creating goals and executing a comprehensive strategy, companies will have more success than they would if they just made it up on the spot.
However, creating an effective PR and marketing strategy can be a stressful process because it involves many elements. PR agencies like Pressfarm exist to take the stress out of this time-consuming and tedious process. Many companies have build a successful PR strategy by outsourcing their PR responsibilities to another team that has expertise in achieving media coverage.
2) Create a distinct brand
If someone were to ask about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise, distinct keywords would come to mind. Rowling has managed to create a distinctive brand which is recognized worldwide, even by people who claim they are not fans or have never read the books. In fact, the Harry Potter brand is almost on the same level as well-known companies like Nike and Apple.
To become a recognizable company and a household name, a company should start by creating a unique and identifiable brand. They need to highlight all aspects of the brand and define what the brand message is, what the brand symbolizes, how people will connect with the brand, and what the brand means to their audience.
3) Have a good product
While smart PR and marketing strategies are essential to any brand, companies should not rely on these strategies to sell a bad product. J.K. Rowling was so successful from the beginning of the franchise that her content was great and always met consumer’s expectations.
“The Harry Potter phenomenon started with a unique product: an engaging, imaginative novel that bridged generations by captivating children and adults alike. Favorable media coverage stemming from the first book made Harry into a “star” who became as newsworthy as anyone on the Hollywood A-list.” – Michael Drabenstott, partner at SPARK.
Before businesses even begin to plan how and where they will market their brand, they need to know who their audience is. With Harry Potter, the primary target audience was children, and J.K. Rowling knew how to make her writing relatable to her intended readers. So, regardless of what type of business it is, companies need to know what kind of audience they are trying to reach.
For example, if a company sells household products and services, they need to focus their efforts on a demographic that cares about these things. In addition, creating products that are unique to their company will help attract potential customers. Furthermore, a functional product is sure to generate profits. For a product, business, or brand to become a “household name,” it also needs to appeal to the emotions of its target audience.
4) Use word-of-mouth marketing
When J.K. Rowling started marketing her first book, it was not successful in the UK but was picked up by the US market. Once sold globally, word-of-mouth marketing took over from traditional advertising to promote the first book of the Harry Potter series.
Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful marketing technique which helps companies to get their product out there. Once people start talking about this product with others and sharing their experiences in their own unique way, the product becomes appealing to potential customers.
For J.K. Rowling, this technique proved beneficial because fans were going to the Internet to create blogs, fan sites, and fan fiction about the story and its characters. In the beginning, J.K. Rowling sent out cease and desist letters to people who had created these sites, but then they realized that the Internet had become a place where people socialize, network, and control the conversation. So, rather than putting an end to it, she decided to give up control, and enjoy the free publicity.
5) Use perpetual and tease marketing
J.K. Rowling used perpetual and tease marketing techniques to her advantage throughout the Harry Potter franchise’s lifecycle. When a popular product is about to launch, people usually have anticipation and will generate a buzz about it.
Leaking pieces of information, having promotional events, and creating a cloud of secrecy until a product or service is launched can help the brand generate buzz about it and boost their sales. This is a great way to build excitement around a business.
After the release of the first few books in the franchise, Rowling and her team used market research to find better ways to reach her audience. She knew that providing sneak peeks of the new books and movies would keep her audience in suspense. With this knowledge, she was able to create excitement for the new books in the franchise.
Companies need to do much research from a PR and marketing standpoint to understand their audience. Once they understand who they are targeting, it is easier to execute their strategy in a way that helps them stand out from their competition.
“The Harry Potter case illustrates the unique form of marketing in which the firms that initiate the message win because they get the word out about their work; those that deliver the message win because it draws the public to their information outlet; and the consumers win because they gain access to the information they crave.” – Gaetan T. Giannini, author of “Marketing Public Relations: A Marketer’s Approach to Public Relations and Social Media.”
6) Ensure brand consistency and restraint
While revamping an existing brand might seem like an excellent opportunity to reach a wider audience, it is also useful to show restraint when changing a brand image. Once customers become loyal to a brand and develop an emotional connection to it, they may not take kindly to a company trying to change up the dynamic. Ultimately, companies need to meet consumer expectations and move develop a consistent brand.
J.K. Rowling made changes the Harry Potter brand image over time. Even so, she wanted to maintain the brand promise, loyalty, and advocacy that she had already established. Consumers play a big part in building brands. While marketers might have their own vision for the brand, consumers are the ones who experience a brand, make it their own, develop emotional connections with it, and advocate for it. Harry Potter did not start as a brand. Rather, it became one only after consumers had experienced it, related to it, and talked about it. Additionally, throughout its lifecycle, Rowling was utterly part of the brand, ensuring that marketing, public relations, and business behind Harry Potter were loyal to the vision of what she wanted.
With Harry Potter, Rowling created a series of books, and she built a powerful brand. After the success of the series, she decided to explore new aspects of branding including movies, merchandise, and even worldwide theme parks. In order for a company to successfully expand, they need to let their business evolve naturally instead of over-commercializing their ideas before they are truly successful.
7) Respond well to failure
As mentioned previously, Rowling was not initially successful when trying to publish her manuscript. She dealt with multiple rejections before the book was finally published. People who know her history are aware that she had to deal with her mother’s death, divorce, and relative poverty before she became who she is today. The way she managed these challenging times is proof of her resilience through hardship.
“She has created an icon out of herself,” he says. “From the PR point of view, she has handled herself brilliantly because if you are seen to be self-promoting too much, the press will turn on you. But she hasn’t done that. She has been elusive and slightly mysterious enough in her behavior for the media to remain intrigued by her.” – Eugene Secunda, New York University communications professor.
Companies can take a page out of her playbook when it comes to business. Setbacks and disappointments are an expected part of building a memorable brand. Even so, when brands face obstacles and challenging times, they should push on so they can turn their failures into successes.
8) Use a multi-channel approach
Through her research, Rowling realized that her audience ranged from young children to adults, and she needed to figure out a way to cater to all their interests. One of the reasons she reached so many people is because she used multiple channels to do so.
Back when the books and movies first came out, social media did not have the influence it has today. However, JK Rowling knew that majority of her audience gravitated towards social media for information and entertainment. For this reason, she decided to create Pottermore, a digital publishing, e-commerce, entertainment, and news company where people could find news, features, and articles along with new and previously unreleased writings by Rowling. As of now, Pottermore has moved to the Wizarding World Site so that it can encompass her Fantastic Beasts franchise as well. Rowling has truly mastered the art of engaging and entertaining her existing fans. She created Pottermore so that fans could delve deeper into Harry Potter’s world, thus encouraging brand loyalty.
As mentioned previously, she transformed the magical world of Harry Potter into a real-life experience by developing amusement parks for everyone to enjoy. She was able to expand her reach by using the multi-channel approach.
Companies can use this approach to attract different segments of their audience. Different audiences are attracted to different things and other means of obtaining information, so by using multiple channels, companies can tailor their message to fit their audience.
9) Use of Twitter
What happens on Twitter affects people because of the amount of time they spend online. A single Tweet can make or break anyone’s reputation within seconds.
To stay relevant in the industry, companies need to have a social media presence that reinforces their brand image rather than damaging it.
J.K. Rowling has proven throughout her career that she understands the platform. A fine example of her ability to manage the crisis is when announcements about the movie “Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald” stated that Korean actress Claudia Kim would play Voldemort’s Snake.
“Listen, Joanne, we get it… you didn’t include enough representation when you wrote the books… but suddenly making Nagini into a Korean woman is garbage… not good representation…”
One of the reasons J.K. Rowling has been so successful is her ability her social media presence through Twitter. Rather than firing back, she decided to reply with part explanation, part instruction, and all in a very gracious manner. She offered a short class on how to respond to a comment on Twitter and replied with:
“The Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology, hence the name ‘Nagini.’ They are sometimes depicted as winged, sometimes as half-human, half-snake. Indonesia comprises a few hundred ethnic groups, including Javanese, Chinese, and Betawi… Have a lovely day…”
Twitter has been an excellent platform for Rowling because she understands its real value. She uses it to have ongoing conversations with fans, responding to positive and negative comments.
Social media can make or break a person or company’s reputation. Through J.K Rowling, brand’s can learn to be polite and non-confrontational. Instead of just trying to get attention or winning an argument, companies need to develop and maintain a positive connection with their audiences on social media.
10) Be a storyteller
Storytelling is an integral part of PR and marketing. In the case of J.K Rowling, she used her way with words to create a magical world. When combined with public relations strategies, her storytelling prowess helped her build a unique and memorable brand.
Whether a company decides to create their content on their own or hire PR professionals, they should always find creative ways to get their information out there. By finding a balance between being informative and innovative, companies have a higher chance of gaining visibility with journalists, media outlets, and potential clients.
J.K Rowling is a perfect example of someone who went up against all odds to succeed in her industry. She combined a good story and her ability to do public relations to create the magical world of Harry Potter. PR and marketing are essential components of the success of any company. However, because of the many elements that go into it, some fall short and cannot create an effective PR strategy. This does not mean that the company should give up. It just means that they need to retrace their steps and figure out creative ways to get media coverage. While J.K Rowling is an expert wordsmith, some may not have the skillset required to create innovative content. In this case, hiring PR professionals may be the way to go.